Peak(s):  Pacific Pk  -  13,950 feet
Date Posted:  02/26/2009
Date Climbed:   02/25/2009
Author:  lordhelmut
 Big day on West Ridge  


My buddy Glen had been throwing around some ideas for some "shorter" winter excursions relatively close to Denver and finally something came to fruition yesterday with Pacific Pk, an imposing peak of the Tenmile Range outside Copper Mountain, being the goal. I‘ve always been pretty mesmerized by the Fletcher Group since the first day I got off Copper‘s Super Bee lift and saw the line of prominent peaks starting from Crystal and ending with Drift. In the summers, I would consistently overlook this range for endeavors in the Elks, Gores, even the Sawatch. But Glen pitched the climb pretty well, he said it‘d be a fun, short winter class 3 scramble. Little did either of us know how commiting of a climb we were getting ourselves into and what we thought was going to be a 5-6 hour day, ended up being a 9-10 hour day.

To be safe, we peeled out of Wash Park around 5:30am, just in case the climb would prolong itself and we could avoid navigating our way back to the car in the dark. I personally had never been to these peaks and between Glen‘s experience in the region and Gerry Roach‘s 3 sentences regarding the route we chose, I honestly didn‘t think much of it all.

After some grub and no traffic, we quickly reached the Mayflower Gulch TH off Rt.91 around 7:15am and were on the trail with blue skies around 7:30am. The forecast had called for increasing clouds and some wind after 8am, but there was little to no signs of either of these conditions for the majority of the day, which was nice.

To make this trip as avy-free as possible, we took an alternate approach, that winded North for about 2 extra miles from Crystal and Pacific and entered the basin from the NW.

Here‘s a look at our entrance into the basin w/ Atlantic and Mayflower Hill in the foreground and a bit of Pacific‘s W.Ridge in the left

We had to throw on snowshoes almost immediately after leaving the car.

Here is a shot of our tracks (the only tracks that day) deep in the basin w/ Copper‘s backside in the distance.

After a lazy 2.5 hours we reached the base of our objective, the West Ridge and took off the shoes. Here‘s our view of Mayflower Hill and its heavly corniced ridgeline.


From reading the summitpost description of this route, it mentioned a series of towers and the southern part of the ridge being the path of least resistence. This couldn‘t have been any more accurate.

Glen in front of our first obstacle

Glen stated at one point before we commited to the ridge "let the fun begin". Fun, in this case, became a pretty relative term. For the next 2.5 to 3 hours we experienced a number of emotions, ranging from sheer excitement, methodical concentration, uncertainty, misery, fear, and in the end, pure satisfaction.

Anyways, back to the climb. Here‘s an idea of how steep it got. Thank god the snow along that ridge was stable that day.

And an idea of the steepness looing back down our route (and this was the South side, the North side was the side we were told to avoid)

Looking at the spine of the ridge from about halfway up the ridge. You can get an idea of the steep North side.


We still had a long way to go

A quick note about avalanche conditions. The CAIC labelled this region as "considerable" and I definately could see how this was accurate. As I mentioned, we avoided all potential sliding slopes on the approach and when climbing on the ridge, we stuck as close to the rocks as possible, which wasn‘t very difficult and when crossing a mandatory, exposed snowfield (there were no overhanging cornices), we travelled one at a time and as quickly as possible. We dug pits, but bottom line, the snow was stable when we needed it the most.

Here‘s an example of where we had to travel across a knife-edged snow covered ridge (with windy conditions to boot)

At one point, we were forced to scale a very sharp knife ridge full of snow with some dramatic expsosure on each side. This was more or less the moment of truth of the climb, a "traverse of faith" if you will. Here‘s our look back at our tracks, the picture doesn‘t do the exposure justice :


Once passed this point, we were very close, but the day was wearing on us. The wind had picked up considerably and the snow travel had put a damper on our morale. We were experiencing a lot more mixed climbing where we had to brush the snow off the route, just to find a reasonable handhold. A couple times there was both loose and slippery rock with tough class 3/4 moves to make so we‘d be forced to apply a little pit of pressure from all 4 limbs to get over an obstacle. The ridge was getting taxing and we were ready for the summit.

After 3 hours on that goddamn ridge, we were finally presented with this view

It was a very sheer drop off the North face and we got a great look at the North Couloir route (5.5).

Here‘s a shot of Glen on the summit w/ Front Range in the back

It was still a very clear day when we reached the summit. We could make our the Elks quite well and Pikes Pk couldn‘t have seemed any closer. The wind actually relented while we sat there exhausted, but victorious.

Some shots from the summit :

Quandary, Silverheels and Pikes in a line

Me with Gores in back

We agreed on another way down, heading back down that ridge would‘ve meant the end for us. We found a variation of the easier ridge route eventually hooking up with Crystal to the North, except instead of heading down the ridge, we went straight down the scree covered face, a more direct line towards the basin. It actually wasn‘t as bad as we thought‘d it be. We used our poles for balance, only tripped a few times and were greeted with a nice 200 foot glissade down to the valley floor and an amazing, surreal view of an incoming storm to the West :


And a view of the sun setting over the Gores to the NW


I never thought I‘d have admit this, but we were pretty thrilled to have the opportunity to put our snowshoes back on and walk in a straight line over flat ground, that exposed, long ridge really did a number on our mental well being.

The hike out was uneventful and we had some amazing sunset views of the white carpeted landscape. It was a euphoric feeling to say the least.

Our final view of Pacific and the daunting ridge


And our journey out


We filled our bellies with Bison meat in Idaho Springs and crashed pretty hard once back in Denver.

Glen, always a pleasure, looking foward to some more snow climbs.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
What, no down climb of Atlantic Peak's west ridge? Looks like a brutal day. Too bad you posted it right after Steve Gladbach's Pyramid Peak report. Heh.


Great report!
02/26/2009 17:26
Great write up and fantastic pics. Looks like an interesting route, I‘ve not done that one. Glad you had a fun & challenging day.


02/26/2009 18:23
Good write up man, I just got done taking my comma. Much more than I expected but that was a good climb.


07/13/2009 02:15
Thanks for posting and great photos. Nice write up.
Congrats on completing the climb in winter!
Photo #11 may not capture the exposure fully, but definitely provides enough for the imagination!

Chicago Transplant

Nice work!
02/26/2009 20:22
Nice one Brian, I love that area in winter! Haven‘t been to Mayflower Gulch yet this year, thanks for reminding me to get up there.


02/26/2009 21:33
Scott - no Atlantic combo. We were thinking of combining Crystal into the day, but a synchronized ”f**k no” as we descended off Pacific sealed the deal. And yes, Steve Gladbach should have his own category of trip reports, gotta give my hat off to the Pyramid TR.

Tom - thanks a lot for the comments. Up till tuesday, I had never really known much of the region, definately a decent place to hone some winter mountaineering knowledge and skills.

sunny - Thats what Glen was trying to capture in pic 11, to provoke the imagination. Thanks for the comments

Mike - definately a decent place to climb in the winter. Exciting climbs with not too much RT mileage. If we had more time and energy we‘d have tagged a few others, but snow makes a single mountain climb a challenge in of itself. Have a good one.


That looks like fun!
11/30/2010 17:28
Matt, mjsherman, has been after me to climb Pacific with him. I told him to wait until the snow melted so that he could enjoy the west ridge. Now he'll read your TR and see how exciting it is with snow. I wonder if you'll peak his interest or scare him off.

Good show.



02/26/2009 23:27
to finally see a trip report from you this winter . You picked a heck of a route - nice job!


Nice job, Brian
01/19/2011 03:38
I fled the snow this week, heading down to Arizona for some sun.
This makes going home so much more sweet. Thanks.


Nice to see a report from you again!
03/02/2009 01:40
What a great route to do in winter. It‘s been on my to-do list for awhile. Have you been skiing and/or climbing a lot this winter?


Good work
03/02/2009 06:04
I wish I had made it over to Pacific a couple weeks ago. Sweet job making it up that ridge. It is very enticing from Atlantic and now I‘m positive I‘ll have to try it sometime.


03/02/2009 15:46
Steve - it looks like now is the time to enjoy the ridge. The snow makes it both more difficult but quite enjoyable.

Sarah - Thanks a lot, I figured it was about time to keep the skiis at home and do a climb.

Matt - dont think I‘m quite ready for the sun just yet. Snow climbs and powder days never really get old.

Caroline - yes it has been a while. I‘ve been pretty much skiing every chance I get, mainly at Mary Jane.

Jack - Glen and I both noticed some overhanging cornices along Atlantic‘s ridge, as well as Maflower Hill. Pacific‘s route was surprisingly stable. Difficult but at the same time quite safe. Your report was a good source for beta. Have a good one.


Awesome report and pictures!
03/02/2009 18:06
as always! Looks like one hell of a climb! Congrats!



03/03/2009 16:35
...conditions...reminds me of Ellingwood a bit. That‘s a great route you did, Brian! We need to meet up at the Rover after work soon! Hope you‘re doing well man

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